United People Freedom Alliance (UPFA) MP Dinesh Gunawardena raising the issue highlighted a request from the acting Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who has written to the Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Prison Reforms asking for interviews.
“I would like to quote a letter from Additional Secretary Ahamad A. Jawad in the capacity of Acting Secretary. In this letter, on page three it is very clear that there is an attempt to interfere with the functions of the judiciary. The Special Rapporteur has requested assistance from the Ministries in arranging a meeting for him with the Chief Justice, Minister of Justice and Prison Reforms Thalatha Atukorala, the Judges of the Colombo High Court as per his schedule. We have no issues with the Minister meeting anybody but meeting the Chief Justice and judges raises concerns,” he said.
According to MP Gunawardena, the independence of the judiciary is assured by the Constitution and a Secretary writing a letter to summon the Chief Justice and the Judges of the Colombo High Court to a meeting with a UN Special Rapporteur was seen by him as a clear attempt to influence matters now before courts.
Leader of the Opposition, Mahinda Rajapaksa also listed the specific cases mentioned in the letter. “Death of Roshan Chanaka in 2011 at the Katunayake Free Trade Zone, protest at Welikada Prison in 2012, Rathupaswala incident in 2013, and any other matter with similar nature relevant to the Ministry are the specific cases mentioned in this letter. The meeting was scheduled on Tuesday. Giving this opportunity to meet the High Court Judges who are engaged in these court cases is a clear violation of the independence of the judiciary. We seek the Speaker’s intervention to stop this meeting,” he said.
In response, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya held that he will take necessary action.
UN Special Rapporteur on Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association Clément Nyaletsossi Voule arrived in Sri Lanka last week. The UN special rapporteur’s official visit is scheduled to end on 26 July. The purpose of the visit is to assess rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the country.